The Blue Lagoon in Iceland is one of the most beautiful spas in the world. Located in volcanic hot springs and surrounded by gorgeous scenery, they have been on many a traveler’s bucket list, including mine. Who wouldn’t want to visit?
The waters of the Blue Lagoon first began to form in 1974 as a byproduct of the Svartsengí Geothermal Power Plant. Icelanders, used to bathing in thermal springs, readily began swimming in the waters, and those with psoriasis noticed a healing effect to their ailment. In 1987, the first bathhouse was built on site, and in 1999 the lagoon was relocated to its current site with the addition of all spa facilities. Over the years it has continued to grow, including a 50% expansion in 2016 which also saw the opening of the lava cove for in-water massages. In 2018, a new luxury hotel and underground spa will be added to the Blue Lagoon.
In 2012, National Geographic named the Blue Lagoon as one of the 25 Wonders of the World. Beyonce and Jay-Z visited in 2014, and then the Kardashians came in 2016, putting the lagoon in world headlights. I don’t remember when I first heard about the blue lagoon, but it was long before I started traveling the world, and I’d been dying to go ever since.
Arriving at the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is located just 20 minutes from the Keflavík International Airport, and away from nearly every other attraction in Iceland. Thus, the best option for visiting is either as the first stop after arrival or the last stop before departure. I chose the former. My flight landed at 1:30 p.m. from Edinburgh, and by 2:15 p.m. I was in my rental car from Lagoon Rentals and on my way to the lagoon.
My ticket was scheduled for 2:30 p.m., but I didn’t manage to make it in until nearly 3. That’s because the line took a full half an hour to get through. Finally I was at the front desk where a staff member effusively welcomed me to the spa and got me set up with my package. I had the Comfort Ticket, which included entrance to the lagoon, a towel, 1 free drink, and both the mud and silica masks. The price of the ticket was $78.50.
The other packages are the Standard Ticket for $59 which just gets you into the lagoon with a mud mask; and the Premium ticket for $99 which has all the benefits of the Comfort Ticket plus sandals, bathrobe, table reservation at the Lava Restaurant and a sparkling wine with your meal (meal not included). There is also a Luxury Ticket for $513 which is the Premium Ticket plus entrance to the exclusive lounge, a private changing room, and a spa journey product set. You can also add a massage to your package, which run between $100 and $300.
Helpful tip: ADVANCED BOOKING IS REQUIRED! Three years ago, you had to pay at the door. Now, you can only pay in advance. In the summer, book further in advance as they do sell out.
There is a large parking lot available if you’re renting a car. You can get a bus from the airport or Reykjavik, but they’re not cheap. The bus from the airport is a whopping $45! If you don’t have a car, there is a luggage storage building at the car park where you can leave big bags for $5 each.
From the car park, I walked down a pathway between 800-year-old lava rocks to the sleek, modern building of the Blue Lagoon. The entire establishment is eco-friendly, powered by the local geothermal plant and designed to blend into the local landscape. Inside the entrance, there is a gift shop and lounge area, but you’re going to want to get straight into line. As mentioned, it took me half an hour to get through the line. Someone told me they had a maximum capacity of 300 people, but in 2015 the lagoon reported over 700,000 visitors, which averages out to more like 2000 visitors a day.
At the counter, I was given a towel and my wristband, which would act as my entrance ticket, locker key and restaurant tab. I tapped my wrist to the entry turnstile and was in!
The changing rooms and showers were upstairs. It was a large locker room, similar to many gyms, with a bunch of naked men changing. The showers were also open, although there were three available with frosted doors, which I was happy to use. I later found out (not personally) that the female changing room was similar, but they had more private showers. You are required to wash before entering the pools.
Helpful tip: You have to pay extra for sandals. You can always bring your own, but hardly anyone uses them anyway, and I wouldn’t consider them entirely safe if left beside the pool.
Entering the Lagoon
The waters of the lagoon were only a few feet from the building. That was a really good thing, since the air temperature was about 37°F (3°C), and I was absolutely freezing in my bathing shorts. I also couldn’t wait to get into the water. I hardly got my Facebook Live video started as I ran (walked really fast) into the lagoon.
I entered bliss.
The water was about 100°F (38°C), although the temperature fluctuated around the lagoon. There are so many minerals in the water that you can only see an inch or two beneath the surface. On the day I went, the steam rising off the water was thick, and visibility was limited to a couple dozen feet at times, depending on the gusts of wind. There wasn’t any sign forbidding phones or cameras, and I had mine recording video the entire time as I wandered around the lagoon.
It’s a big area. There are different pools to explore, none of which were crowded while I was there. On one side of the main pool is the bar, where I picked up a smoothie which was included in my ticket. On the other side of the pool was the face mask booth. An attendant spooned a blob of silica mud into my hand, which I coated on my face. I was instructed to leave it on until it dried. That took about 15 minutes, at which point I washed it off and returned for the algae mask which had a similar procedure.
Wading through the 4-feet deep water was heaven, but it was the scenery that makes the Blue Lagoon truly special. The lagoon is surrounded by 800-year-old lava rocks, and mountains range in the south. As it was November, the sun was scheduled to set around 5 p.m., but the mountains and clouds brought sunset closer to 4, less than an hour after I got into the water.
In other words, the timing couldn’t have been perfect.
Not only did I miss the pouring rain in the morning, I got to see the pastel blue water in the daylight with a spectacular sunset in the background, the billowing steam in the fading light of twilight, and the sensual, mystic beauty of the pools at night. The temperature might have dropped, but I was too relaxed and happy to notice (mostly).
Toward the end of the evening, I found the thermal waterfall (hotter than the lagoon waters and also reeking of sulfur), and the steam room and sauna. I spent time in all three, thus enjoying the “spa” aspect of the Blue Lagoon.
With all the heat, it was easy to get dehydrated. I only had the one free drink at the bar, but underneath one of the bridges is a small water fountain with pure Icelandic spring water. It’s freezing cold, and absolutely delicious. Bring your cup from the bar, or just stick your head under like I did.
Perhaps the best part of the Blue Lagoon was the lack of a time restriction. Unlike other thermal spring spas I’ve been to which had a 2- or 3-hour limit in the waters, you can stay as long as you want at the Blue Lagoon. Unfortunately, hunger finally overcame my pleasure (I hadn’t eaten since an early breakfast in Edinburgh) and I also had a northern lights boat tour scheduled for 9 p.m.
How Does the Blue Lagoon Compare
In the past few months, I went to two other thermal spas. In Bucharest, Romania I visited Therme, and in Bath, England I went to the Thermae Bath Spa for the second time. Both were fantastic and unique in their own way. I was curious to see how the Blue Lagoon would compare to them.
Therme is more of a wild, family-friendly aquatic center and even includes an indoor waterpark. The bars around the pools were much more numerous, and the activities were wilder. Throughout the evening they had aquatic aerobics, water dancing and constant loud music playing. Kids were running around, and it was completely packed, making it hard to move through the pools without bumping into other people. I certainly had fun, but it could hardly be considered relaxing.
Thermae Bath Spa was the complete opposite, with an almost reverent atmosphere. The spa is hushed and every moment of the experience leads to relaxation. Even the bathrooms are set up with private changing cubicles for every guest.
Unquestionably the best aspect of the Blue Lagoon was the raw, stunning nature surrounding the spa. The water is only slightly hotter than the other spas. There certainly seemed to be fewer people in the pools compared to the others. I’d have to say the changing facilities weren’t quite as nice. All three spas used the same time of electronic bracelets for the lockers and payment system, but while Thermae and Therme had elastic bands which wouldn’t come off, the Blue Lagoon had old-style watch bands which are known to fall off in the lagoon.
The biggest difference between the Blue Lagoon and the others is simply the price. Just entrance to the spa is double, and that’s not including the flights, accommodations (which are proportionately a fortune), the bus or car rental, etc.
Helpful tip: My towel disappeared while I was in the pool, and so did everyone else’s that I knew about. The same went for the bathrobes that come with the Premium Ticket. Either leave your towel and bathrobe in your locker (which kinda defeats the purpose) or consider sticking with the Comfort Ticket, and hide your towel well.
Do I Think the Blue Lagoon was Worth It?
Am I happy that I checked the Blue Lagoon off my bucket list? Absolutely! Would I do it again? No. I would much rather go back to Thermae Bath Spa for the third time, or try some new ones around the world. I certainly plan to return to Iceland, next time in the summer to see the change in landscape and waterfalls. I might even try some of the other thermal spas in Iceland, of which there are dozens and all costing significantly less than the Blue Lagoon (at least at this time).
Should you visit the Blue Lagoon? If you can afford it, definitely! It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Just make sure you plan your journey fully since there is so much to do in Iceland beyond the lagoon. The biggest complaint I heard from other travelers (other than the cost of things) was not being able to do enough in the country in the time they had.
Helpful tip: The one biggest benefits of the Blue Lagoon is the current lack of time restriction. Your pass is good for as long as you want. If you have the time, book early in the morning, and stay all day. The sunset is worth it, and you might even see the northern lights at night.
Fun Facts About the Blue Lagoon
The silica in the water of the Blue Lagoon can wreak havoc on your hair. Either keep your head out of the water, or apply the conditioner they provide in the showers at the outset and leave it in for added protection. I didn’t heed this advice myself, but I did use plenty of conditioner before leaving and I didn’t seem to have any problem.
The waters of the lagoon are naturally replaced every 40 hours. This means you’re nearly guaranteed to be swimming in fresh water, no matter how many people are at the lagoon.
There are algae, silica and many other minerals in the water. They have natural healing benefits, and will also give your skin a shimmering look.
Opening hours vary. In July and August, the Blue Lagoon is open 7 a.m. to midnight. In October through December, opening hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
It is possible to see the northern lights from the Blue Lagoon. While this isn’t guaranteed, and they are likely to start after the lagoon closes, it’s a good reason to stay until the end of the night.
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